Wine on the wing: Emirates wine program

Apparently there’s a real rivalry among airlines for first class wine service–although you’d never guess it in the back of the bus where the wine selections are generally bad enough to drive a wine to beer.

A piece in Bloomberg details how Emirates has splashed out over $40 million a year on wine for the last twelve years. No comparative metric is given in the story (how much do other leading airlines spend on wine?) but it sounds like a big number to me.

Joost Heymeijer, who runs in-flight catering at the airline, details their buying strategy, which, interestingly, involves buying and then storing wines in a “Fort Knox-style” facility in Burgundy: The Emirates stash currently has almost 4 million bottles slumbering, some of which have escalated in value.

Sadly, that seems to be the point as Heymeijer said in the story: “It’s an investment. We look at it like a commodity.” Ugh. When they buy, they buy in 10,000 bottle lots, often from Champagne and Bordeaux. But they have even snapped up Burgundy, buying 2,000 cases of Corton-Charlemagne, cited as a tenth of the total production of the appellation.

They do pull some corks though, serving 9 million glasses of champagne last year, among other things. Check out the story for more details.

One amusing item appeared in the kicker. Asked about the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, Heymeijer replied “Not as good as 2010, but in Saint Emilion, Passat, and Margaux, it will be very good, probably better than the 2010.” Ah, yes, the renowned Passat appellation…probably a transcription error, but, yes, a case of top Bordeaux does sometimes go for about the same as a new Passat.

(On a side note, there is something incongruent that Emirates spends such a sum on alcohol given that orthodox Islam frowns on drinking alcohol–see comment section for discussion.)

Photo: Emirates

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7 Responses to “Wine on the wing: Emirates wine program”

  1. Emirates selection of in-flight wines is always superior to BA’s

  2. Tyler, while consumption of alcoholic beverages is considered to be sinful according to most orthodox Muslim practice, prohibition of alcohol is not among the five pillars of Islam, which include: 1) declaration of faith that includes acceptance of the principle of monotheism, that there is only one God, and that Muhammed is the last line in the prophets of God (that includes the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospels) 2) prayer to God 5 times per day, facing in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, 3) charity to others. 4) fasting during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan 5) making pilgrimage to Mecca during the Hajj season if possible. These pillars are basically accepted by most Muslim sects – though various sects – diverse Shiite ones, primarily, add others, and some heterodox sects might de-emphasize the importance of one or the other. As for the general “Muslim” prohibition of wine there are loopholes that some interpret to permit moderate consumption. Most orthodox practitioners and commentators would say ‘no,’ but the liberal interpretation is not outlandish.

    But, yes, it is seemingly odd that Emirates, based in a country whose citizens (rather than residents) are overwhelmingly Muslim, would invest so much in wine. A few considerations, however: the UAE is a secular country. That is, its rulers do not rely on divine authority to rule, and laws, while inspired by interpretations of Islamic law (Sharia), are not dependent on it. The realm of family law officially follows Sharia (which, again, are interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence rather than a specific code dating back to the 7th century) and, the state does, on occasion, impose puritanical restraints on its population. But, each of the 7 emirates has its own ruler and its own standards of of behavior. Dubai is surely the most liberal of all, and purchase of and consumption of alcohol is permitted. Other emirates have their own rules about this issue. That said, Emirates sees itself as an international business carrier, not a representative of any religion. Well, maybe the religion of capitalism. Seems like they’re making some wise business decisions when it comes to wine.

  3. Jamal – Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to add this clarification. I have amended the post above.

    Have you written about wine in the Middle East or Muslim societies? Sounds like an interesting topic and you have a lot of background. Your lede could be about Saddam Hussein and his deliveries of Mateus. 🙂

  4. Hello again, Tyler.

    Apologies for the delayed response.

    I have written a bit on the subject, and am preparing a far larger work. The Saddam angle is interesting. Trading grapes for grain, during the war with Iran, he supposedly commissioned Iraqi oil tankers to load up on Australian beer for local consumption. It seems that Fosters, or some equivalent, was quite popular in Iraqi public houses. All licit, by the way.

  5. Good to read about muslim society. Among all i like Dubai as it has more liberal. It is good for living with freedom.

  6. I know about wine and Muslim region individually. But the related things between them that you are posted here is somewhat interesting and new to know.

  7. The Muslim society is a part of a regional culture. Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing.


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